Prosecutors recieve insight from ex-gang member

Luis Aroche, alternative sentencing planner in the district attorney's office, helps prosecutors find solutions. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle / SF

In what may be a first in the nation, San Francisco prosecutors negotiating plea deals for nonviolent felons are conferring with an in-house social worker who emerged from his own checkered past.

Aroche, a 34-year-old former Mission District gang member, was hired in February by District Attorney George Gascón as an "alternative sentencing planner" - a point man on tough love.

If Aroche's background is unique, so is his role. Traditionally, prosecutors focus on punishment, but Aroche seeks to give offenders what they need to live productively, whether drug treatment, education or housing.

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